India minister sparks fury over comment alleging gang-rape was a 'small incident'
August 23, 2014, 12:01 am TWN
NEW DELHI -- The father of a student who died after being gang-raped on a moving bus in New Delhi spoke of his anger Friday after a senior minister referred to the infamous attack as a "small incident."
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said at a tourism conference on Thursday that "one small incident of rape in Delhi, advertised the world over, is enough to cost us millions of dollars in terms of lower tourism."
Speaking to AFP, the 23-year-old victim's father said that Jaitley's televised comments had "reopened wounds" over the attack in December 2012 and had left the family deeply upset.
The student's gang-rape in December 2012 triggered nationwide protests about the levels of sexual violence in India which drew massive international media coverage.
"Whatever he has said is very wrong. I cannot express in words how much it has hurt us," said the father, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
"He is talking about losses to the treasury. What about the irreparable loss that we have suffered? Does he even have an idea what the family of a rape victim has to undergo each day?"
Although the word "small" was removed from the copy of the speech published on the government website, Jaitley later expressed regret that his comments had "been construed as insensitive."
"I have always been very outspoken on issues related to crimes against women," Jaitley, who is also India's defense minister, told reporters.
"There is no question of trivializing any particular incident."
Jaitley's comments also drew widespread condemnation from campaigners.
"No rape is small, each rape is shameful because it violates women's rights not because it affects tourism," said women's rights activist Kavita Krishnan.
Although India did register a slight increase in visitor numbers last year, the level of growth was well down on the two previous years.
Around seven million foreigners visited India in 2013 — just a quarter of the numbers who traveled to Thailand or Malaysia.